Dehumanizing Slurs

About the talks

Slurring terms are pejorative expressions that target individuals on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, socioeconomic status, occupation, and various other socially important properties.  They are tools of subordination and their use a threat to human dignity.  What do such expressions mean? And how does their meaning contribute to the fact that uses of slurs are extraordinarily destructive – dehumanizing – to their targets and can tend to make hearers feel complicit?  Understanding such expressions requires understanding the interactions of their semantics and pragmatics with their social and psychological functions and effects.  These lectures will explore the interplay between the meaning of slurring terms, their contribution to truth conditions, their capacity to dehumanize, and their social functions to forge alliances and signal affiliations.

Lecture I

Slurs, Dehumanization, and the Expression of Contempt

May 19, 16-18, Aula Magna: Spelbomskan

Lecture II

The Truth about Slurs

May 20, 13-15, Aula Magna: Spelbomskan

Lecture III

The Social Dimension of Slurs

May 21, 13-15, Aula Magna: Spelbomskan

Comments by Matti Eklund, Åsa Wikforss, and Jonas Åkerman

About Professor Jeshion

Robin Jeshion is professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California. She specializes in the philosophy of language and mind, focusing especially on topics concerning the ways that language contributes to shaping cognition, and cognition shapes and is manifest in language.  Her research includes work on the relationship between the semantics of singular terms and the nature of singular thought; the semantics of demonstratives and the nature of perception and spatial representation; the semantic, cognitive, and social functions of proper names.  Most recently, she has been writing about slurring terms, and related expressions, attempting to understand to what extent attitudes and/or social structures are incorporated within their semantics and pragmatics.  Outside of mind and language, she has written about mathematical intuition, a priori knowledge, the epistemological status of proofs, and Frege’s logicism. Before returning to USC, she taught at Yale University, the University of California, Riverside, the University of Arizona, and spent a year as a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, supported by an ACLS Burkhardt Fellowship.